Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey: Series Two, Episode Six

We're back, much less late than the last installment. Progress. Once again, your sherpas for Wordy Old Men on Downton Abbey are Wordy Ginters and Josh "Old Man" Duggan. Tell your friends, family, and even foes--nevermind, fuck your foes--that they need to get their fool asses up in this joint. Once again, you can buy the second series on Blu-ray and on DVD. They're the original versions as aired in the U.K. (Series One available here on DVD and Blu-ray.) Why the British versions? Because they're unabridged, unlike what aired in the U.S. Do it (but follow those links if you do).

The antepenultimate episode of the proper Second Series kicks off with Mary pushing Matthew around the estate while Sir Richard Carlisle looks on and rhetorically asks Lord Grantham if he has reason to be jealous. Carlisle eyes a nearby manor owned by a family that has fallen on hard times. A horribly burned soldier by the name of Patrick Gordon asks to be transferred to Downton to convalesce. Isobel has her sights set on continuing on in using Downton for a recovery center. Carlisle asks Mr. Carson to come work for him at Haxby Park. Mrs. Patmore turns Thomas onto the idea of hoarding rations for the coming hard times. While eating alone for lunch, Lord Grantham engages the new housemaid, Jane, in conversation about her son. Patrick Gordon picks Edith to pitch a tale about him being Patrick Crawley, the heir who perished in the sinking of the Titanic but suffered from amnesia, which prevented him from remembering who he was until the memories were jarred back with the explosion that burned his face to the point of being unrecognizable. Carlisle and Cora conspire to bring Lavinia back into Matthew's life. Sybil tells Branson that she'll have an answer for him at the conclusion of the war. The Dowager Countess turns Cousin Isobel onto the notion of helping refugees. When the family is faced with the news of Patrick's alleged return, the Crawley's are all suspicious of his claim except for Lady Edith. The supreme fuckwad Major Bryant is discovered to have died in the Battle of Vittoria Veneto, leaving his bastard child with Ethel a fatherless one. Armistice is announced to be happening on 11/11 at 11:00 AM. Bates heads to London to deal with his wife, who has managed to get their divorce stricken again. He returns as says things went horribly. A lawyer can neither verify nor nullify Patrick's story, but Patrick leaves as it seems clear that the family will not buy what he's peddling. As Mary's affection for Matthew becomes increasingly obvious and Lavinia returns to pledge her undying dedication to Matthew, Carlisle threatens Mary with the prospect of being ruined by release of the tale of her night of Turkish anal pleasure should she jilt him and then, like a stone-cold killer, kisses her straight on the mouth. Armistice is officially signed. Matthew gets a tingle when Bates takes him by the wheelchair. Carson prepares to leave Downton. Bates receives word by way of telegram that his wife was found dead.

Wordy Ginters: Do we need to address the Laura Linney intro? I’m assuming you are blessed with it? I’m streaming my Downton via Amazon, and I’m always put into that special Downton mood by Laura’s plucky and strangely knowing intro to each episode of Masterpiece Theatre. The barely contained emotion and flaming eyes make me wonder what in the fuck is going through her pretty little mind. Would you?

Old Man Duggan: I am actually not seeing Laura Linney at the beginning of every episode. On the UK Edition discs, she does an intro to the season but it is left at that. I did watch the last few as recorded from PBS originally, so I have seen them. Laura Linney is weird to me. There are certain roles where I don't think too much about her, at least in a lusty way. Then there are others (You Can Count On Me comes to mind) where I find her extremely appealing. Her clear, dirty love of Downton Abbey is certainly good for some points in the Would You column.

The real Jack Johnson
WG: I liked the Jack Johnson reference when Mary was pushing Matthew across the lawn. Jack Johnson should be in this series. I imagine him having F2FA with the Dowager. Flouting conventions and race cars and operas and all that. Stomping across the landscape. Boxing.

OMD: We can only hope that Jack Johnson makes his way to Downton. While F2FA with the Dowager Countess would be awesome, it seems as though Lady Edith would be helpless against his special brand of cocksure interracial courtship at high speeds. By the way, kids, we're not talking about that feel-good beach guitar choad that you were/are into until your 19th birthday. Get your shit together.

WG: What kind of tires are on that wheelchair anyway? They leave all kinds of hideous steep walled ruts thru the lush green turf, right? Now I know why we never see the gardener.

OMD: I think they're Turf-Killer© brand tires. Post-war, they'll likely have to hire on a new groundskeeper or just pave the entire manor--introduce a little bit of post-'Nam Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex to Downton and turn it into an endless hellish pavementscape hurled right into the heart of stodgy old England. I'm sure that's the route Fellowes will take everything in Series Three, which is likely why he's laid the groundwork with all the car talk thus far.

WG: Carlisle, rocketing up the shit-heel charts at Downton, up three spots, ahead of Thomas but still behind O’Brien. First, the “ought I to be jealous?” quip to Grantham when he spied Mary and Matthew carving up the lawn. And then later, getting tough with Mary, basically telling her that she has given him the goods that he can destroy her with, and she shouldn’t get too uppity, or he will use those goods. But my favorite part of that scene is the awesome villain power move when he then leans over and plants a tender kiss on her lips. He knows his money is too new, and he’s not really accepted in those circles, so he’s a little chippy. I like it.

OMD: From the onset of the episode Carlisle shows his crass nouveau riche nature. He's like a Jay Gatsby Version Douche.0. His combination of insecurity and power is a dangerous one. Even his approach to courting Carson's employ is uncouth, showing his complete lack of refinement. The kiss was cold-blooded. I got a shiver and wanted nothing more than Matthew or more likely Carson to barrel down the hallway at Haxby to throw the brash clod into the 21st Century.

WG: Carson is definitely the man for clod clearing. Dude blocks out the fucking sun with those shoulders when he's in the frame. And the eyebrows reek of pungent virility. I'm putting my money on Carson when time comes for the Downton Abbey MMA Warrior Challenge. I'm eager to see where Fellowes takes Carlisle. He might as well be from Mars. A piranha in a goldfish tank. It doesn't appear that Lord Grantham has the same appetite, ambition, or street sense to parry effectively with shitheel Carlisle. Maybe having an ounce of humanity will balance the scales a tad.

Daisy is in a STATE… if you didn’t catch it

Hand-wringing 101
OMD: In this episode, it was clear that Sophie McShera had taken extensive courses from the Joan Fontaine School of Acting with a heavy emphasis in Relating Pensiveness with Fidgety Hands and Avoiding Eye Contact with Everyone in a Scene.

WG: What the fuck happened to Isobel this episode? She’s lost her marbles. A little bit of a stretch for me. Perhaps with Matthew virtually legless, and the ghastly experiences of the war, she’s found herself on soft ground regarding the mental faculties. The way the Dowager manipulated her into a social cause and off of Downton seemed a little convenient, and not worth Isobel’s dignity. Good for a laugh I guess. Seeing the Dowager and Isobel scrap is one of my favorite elements of the show, I hope sending Isobel to wander amongst the Fugees doesn’t mean the end of those pissing matches. I suppose she’ll have her hands more than full dealing with Lauryn Hill. Wyclef Jean is filming a remake of Woody Allen’s Bananas in Jamaica last I heard. Regardless, the Fugees and Isobel will be on the same page regarding justice that is social.

OMD: The first time I saw that turn of events it caught me off guard as well. I have to say it makes more sense upon second viewing, as the Dowager Countess has to cast out three times to find something that she'll bite on, and it has always been abundantly clear that Isobel will go for the cause that needs her most. Clearly Isoble's favorite album is The Score, and that's coloring her judgment. As for pissing matches amongst the geriatrics in the cast of Downton Abbey, I can't imagine that this extremely popular element of the show will be cast aside any time soon. The Fugees didn't stick together for long, and Isobel will only be able to help them so much. By the time, she's done with the displaced, Downton will likely have been converted back to its original use and Isobel will care only about what happens in Jamaica. It's a win-win for all involved.

WG: I love the undead Titanic heir! I’ve always thought Downton Abbey would benefit greatly from a bit of strange. Sure, the make-up job looks like chewed taffy covered in silly putty, but what the hell. The guy playing undead Titanic heir is sufficiently off-kilter as well. A spazzed out pile of soiled dressings with one great leering eyeball and the voice of an adolescent careening through puberty. Weird hand gestures and just enough stories to create some legitimacy. Of course Edith is all in. She thirsts so deeply for approval it makes her an easy mark.

OMD: Patrick Gordon/"Crawley" strangely reminded me of Bill Irwin in an episode of Northern Exposure. In the episode (Season Four, Episode Six, "On Your Own"), Irwin plays The Flying Man from the circus that rolls through Cicely. He's a mute and has eyes for Marilyn. Something about Trevor White's mannerisms as Patrick Gordon summon the image of Bill Irwin specifically in that role. No idea why. This is definitely an atypical plot device for the show. I'm not sure it works completely--one of the few times I've said this about a choice of Julian Fellowes's--but it does create some drama for the future of Downton Abbey. As for Edith, I wish someone as gullible as she with mounds and mounds of cash would happen into my path. I've got some beachfront property in the desert for sale.

WG: The Carlisle/Carson free agent negotiations apparently were filmed in the Black Lodge from Twin Peaks. The red curtains signify that Carlisle is a scheming evil toadshit. That’s what it says in my copy of TV Symbolism and You textbook from Ripon Grammar school.

OMD: I lost my copy of TV Symbolism and You. Is it back in print?

WG: Nice cinematic scene with Hughes providing graft for Ethel. Rain, darkness, and more shit end of the stick for poor Ethel and her child.

Novello is Bryant? Bryant is Novello?
OMD: The Ethel storyline is getting pretty tedious for me the second time around. There are so many other storylines that don't involve Ethel. I'd prefer that she just went away. It was impossible to give a shit about her in the first place, as she was the randiest broad in the Western Hemisphere and was so openly contemptuous of her life that I'm glad she doesn't get to live it anymore. Just sack the fuck up and go whole hog on pretending you're a war widow, Ethel. Stop bothering the saintly Mrs. Hughes with your problems. More importantly, stop bothering me with your entitlement issues and lack of personal responsibility. I do not give any fucks, Ethel. I give no fucks at all. Also fuck her ugly kid, and I'm glad that Ivor Novello-looking motherfucker Major Bryant bit it. Their offspring will surely be a horrible person regardless of upbringing.

WG: Ivor Novello? I like it when you go Welsh.

“Your lot buys it, my lot inherits it.” One of my favorite lines in the series so far.

OMD: I found it impossible not to laugh at that line even when I knew it was coming. Que delicioso.

WG: Bates. Yes, you are a stupid bastard. Did he whack his wife? Maybe I’ve been watching too much TRU TV, but that may have been the only real solution.

OMD: Having seen the show through the Christmas Special, I am reticent to dive in here. If he did, I'd be glad for him because fuck her. And regardless of how she died, I hope it was excruciatingly painful and exceedingly gruesome.

WG: “I am the cat who walks by himself, and all places are alike to me, I have nothing to give, and nothing to share, and if you were not engaged to be married, I wouldn’t let you anywhere near me.” Nice.

OMD: It's hard not to really like Matthew in this episode. He's walking this fine line that he never crosses wherein he never gets so self-pitying that you want him to stop. Every word that pours forth from his mouth is gold. When presented with the prospect of cousin Patrick coming back to claim Downton as his own to inherit, Matthew takes it in stride and strangely has the best interests of everyone but himself in mind. It's like he knows his being crippled will be a suck on everyone else and doesn't want to be a bother, but he's taken to this mindset with a refreshing candor and a bit of morbid humor. The exchange about jumping in the river was hilarious. Also, his comment about Carson being willing to open his veins for Mary fit the bill. Great episode for Dan Stevens's reel.

WG: With Bates getting soft and addled in his thinking, Matthew is fast becoming my favorite character. If he's able to muster wood again, its a no doubter. I'm glad you brought up the river scene. I wonder if it was improvised. Mary's laughter was genuine. For me, the Matthew/Mary plot thread is much improved by the chemistry between the two.

Two thoughts at the end of the episode. Matthew got a boner when Bates got behind him. And Bates’s wife can’t be dead--I didn’t see any evidence of salt being poured in her mouth and/or her lips being sewn shut.

OMD: I'm pretty sure The Coug sang about the feelings stirring in Matthew's nether-regions. Who could blame him? I dream about the day where Bates wheels me around in my wheelchair. As for the evil, late Mrs. Bates, perhaps she was shot with silver bullets. They kill werewolves; do they kill your run-of-the-mill hellbeast?

WG: "Little Pink Houses?"

OMD: Mmm-hmmm.

When Mrs. O'Brien excuses herself from the table to eavesdrop on Bates's phone conversation, she does so by saying, "I've got to fetch my button box." Are we to take this as yet another coy double entendre from the quiver of Julian Fellowes? It sure as shit sounds like she's about to go pleasure herself while listening to Bates's bad news. Thomas's knowing/winking glance does little to dissuade me from this assumption. Her hands are nowhere to be seen when it is revealed that she's listening in on Bates and Anna's conversation, and I can't imagine that there could ever be an expression of joy on O'Brien's face, even--hell, especially during climax.

WG: O'Brien pleasuring herself to Bates' bad news seems entirely plausible and wildly hilarious at the same time. Somehow, I missed the "button box" reference. O'Brien is almost surely a sexual scowler. Give credit to Fellowes for pushing healthy alternatives to premarital sex. After Patmore buttered her own biscuit a few episodes back, I gave up the practice myself. Temporarily of course. Respite was had.

OMD: I really liked the scene in the garage (in my head, I pronounced that as I would were I British) between Branson and the luscious Lady Sybil. The sunlight from without bleeding out the background in the garage leaving Branson and Sybil in a gauzy island of restrained lust was affected a strong bodily urge in me in the same vicinity that Matthew presumably had stoked by Bates's firm handling of his chair. It was sort of like a tasteful (and 30 second) version of Somewhere in Time. Only it was awesome and didn't suck. I guess it's not really like Somewhere in Time at all, but it is gauzy just the same.

I love that Lord Grantham's plans for his brand spanking new tuxedo are to sit around the house in it. Oh, to be ridiculously wealthy...

WG: First world problems.

OMD: I really liked the moments shared between Lord Grantham and Matthew where Robert says, "I never think about anything else" than Matthew and then just a bit later between Carson and Mrs. Hughes where Hughes intimates her deep respect for Carson in her reserved British way. Both reached a tone so touching, sincere, and knowing that it's hard to recall an episode that got two little moments so right and so meaningful in such a minute amount of time. The fact that those scenes are then followed by Cora calculatedly co-engineering Lavinia's return and Sir Richard's threat to Mary coming hot on that scene's heels is a credit to Fellowes. He really has this balancing act down. He's a deft damn storyteller.

WG: We revisit this time and again, and rightfully so, but hell yes. Is it as daring as big time cable darlings like The Wire or Deadwood? No. But as a TV drama, it's an extremely well-crafted piece of work. From the production values to the storytelling, to the characters, there are very few missteps. It's easy to take potshots at stuffy period dramas on PBS, the riffs practically write themselves. But screw that noise, this show is a gem.

1 comment:

j.carol said...

i imagine a jack johnson wandering around the grounds of downton abbey strumming his guitar and singing bubbly toes and having a bonfire at night with all the stoner locals.

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